Below are a series of frequently asked questions and answers regarding the proposed men’s emergency shelter at 850-854 Bloor Street West. If you have any questions please contact me directly at councillor_layton@toronto.ca or by phone at (416) 392-4009.

In 1989, a homeless man died in a TTC bus shelter around the corner from my home during a crisis in our shelter system. His name was Eugene Upper. He froze to death. He is not alone. The numbers are not really tracked but the Homeless Memorial Project estimate that 740 people have died on our streets since 1985. This winter alone there were an alarming number of reports of homeless people freezing to death. The death of one person on our streets is one too many, let alone more than a dozen a year.

Due to increasing numbers of homeless people in Toronto, our existing shelter system is not meeting the needs of our homeless population and people are being turned away from full shelters. Our city must act now to ensure we can provide all people who need it a warm, dry place to sleep and programs to help them out of poverty. This proposed shelter is part of a number opening up in neighbourhoods throughout the city.

The meeting hosted in my ward on Monday October 5 was by no means an easy meeting. Without question however, those in attendance understood the needs of a very vulnerable homeless population in Toronto. But, many concerns were raised about local impacts of the additional services of a shelter at the CONC site on Bloor as well oversight of the shelter itself by the service provider – CONC.

Following the public meeting and additional conversations with neighbours, I moved a motion at a Committee on October 15, which placed conditions on the shelter and service provider. There are more details below. I am confident these conditions will ensure accountability and allow us to address issues as they arise.

Everyone agrees, our community along Bloor Street West has changed over the past decade and we want to ensure it continues to thrive. There are a number of emergency shelters in our ward and based on my positive experiences within those neighbourhoods, I am confident that our community will be made stronger and more resilient through the opening of this shelter.

My family and I live on Pendrith Street, only a few hundred metres away from this proposed shelter. This makes me all the more confident we can make this shelter work. I am proud to live in a caring and compassionate community that looks out for others. Whether you are opposed, concerned, or in favour of the proposed shelter – please let me know and have input on how we take this on as a community.

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850-854 Bloor Street West CONC & LOFT location

What is CONC?
The Christie Ossington Neighbourhood Centre is an agency that provides services in multiple locations to vulnerable populations. They offer counselling, employment services, skills development, as well as emergency shelter space, transitional shelter space and more.

 

What services are provided by CONC?
CONC operates a shelter on Lansdowne in Ward 18 Davenport. In Ward 19 CONC currently runs a drop-in and food access program that provides free access to healthy meals, phone, internet, skills-based workshops, health and wellness support and more for hundreds of vulnerable residents daily.

 

What is LOFT?
CONC also runs LOFT (Life Opportunities Food and Technology) Kitchen at 850 Bloor Street West, which is a youth-led social enterprise for marginalized youth including newcomer, immigrant youth, out-of-school youth, street-involved youth, and youth with a previous criminal history, to develop employment skills while supporting their development as community citizens.

 

What is being proposed?

  • 30-bed emergency shelter for men 16 and over to be operated on the second floor of 850-854 Bloor St W
  • 24/7 operation with case management, drop-in, medical, employment and housing supports along with the existing LOFT café
  • The shelter will likely open in February 2016

CONC successfully bid on the provision of a 30 bed men’s shelter at 850-854 Bloor Street West. This shelter places the users in an agency that can provide many supports in addition to a warm bed at night. The services listed above will help the men in the shelter receive the health, training, employment, skills, and housing supports they need to improve their quality of life.

 

How is this shelter different than the one CONC ran in 2008?
For two years, until 2008 CONC ran a temporary women’s emergency shelter for the City. This shelter was simply mats on the floor and did not include the suite of services that would be provided to the men in the new shelter.

This proposed men’s shelter includes:

  • Private beds, dressers, clean sheets, pillows, lockers, showers, and accessible laundry services
  • Social services support and case management to help the men move out of poverty and homelessness

 

What are Shelter Standards?

The City of Toronto partners with community agencies to provide emergency shelter and assistance to homeless families and individuals. The City has a responsibility to the residents who are served and to ensure that shelters meet acceptable standards. The City is committed to ensuring that shelter service is delivered in ways that help homeless people to gain access to housing and support services, provide choices, respect diversity and ensure public value for funding. In order to meet this commitment, Shelter Standards have been developed to provide shelter operators and residents with a clear set of expectations and guidelines for the provision of shelter services in Toronto.

CONC will be required to meet the City’s Shelter Standards. If you would like to see a copy of these standards please email me at councillor_layton@toronto.ca and I will send them to you.

You can see the shelter standards recently updated at City Council on October 1, 2015 online by clicking here.
Who will use this shelter and why do people use shelters?
This is a shelter for men 16 and over who are in need of emergency shelter services. There may be users that stay for many nights, but it is also a place for those who suddenly find themselves on the street. Unfortunately many people end up homeless for any number of personal reasons and this shelter will provide them with a roof over their head and the support to improve their well-being.

 

Why is this shelter needed and why in our neighbourhood?
Our existing shelter system is not meeting the needs of our homeless population. It is well over capacity, which means the homeless could be turned away. Our city must act now to ensure we can provide all people who need it a warm, dry place to sleep and programs to help them out of poverty. This proposed 30 bed men’s shelter on Bloor Street is 30 of over 120 beds the city is opening up to address our current crisis and attempt to save lives this winter. These shelter beds are being added in many communities throughout the city, not simply downtown. Shelter beds are being added in Scarborough and North York as well as our neighbourhood. The homeless population is often hidden, but widespread and services are needed in many communities.

 

What is the process?

Winter 2014/2015: Our shelters were at capacity, people were being turned away, and we had a significant number of homeless deaths in the city. In response, City Council voted to provide Shelters, Support and Housing Administration with additional funding to open beds across the city.

February 2015 Shelters issued a Request for Expressions of Interest (REOI) to expand the shelter system and address our occupancy issues. Not-for-profit agencies submitted proposals that went through an initial review, panel interview, and site visits. The City received 22 proposals and accepted 9.

Late August 2015 Shelters found CONC to be a suitable agency for a 30 bed men’s shelter on Bloor Street West.

October 5, 2015 my office with Shelters staff hosted a public meeting at Bob Abate Community Centre.

October 7, 2015 a staff report with the results of all of the recommended new shelter beds became public as part of the agenda for Community Development and Recreation Committee.

October 15, 2015 the Committee met and discussed the item. Members of the community deputed. I moved a motion amending CONC’s shelter to incorporate solutions to concerns into the operating agreement.

October 26, 2015 I will be hosting an additional public meeting. The details are the back of this flyer.

November 3, 2015 City Council will vote on all of the new beds being recommended.

Winter 2015/2016 The Community Liaison Committee for the shelter will be established and will begin meeting regularly.

 

What is it that we get to decide?
The process for locating a shelter is not up to residents because it is based on the needs of an often hidden and vulnerable population. The location of shelters is based first on our collective need for shelters both demographically and geographically, second the specific needs and potentially co-located supports for those who would be accessing the services, and finally the interests of local communities. It is only after city staff have evaluated proposals and concluded on specific service providers that the local councillor and neighbours are informed. This happened in September, 2015 for this proposal.

City staff are required to notify the community regarding their plans to develop an emergency shelter in their neighbourhood and host a Community Information Meeting to hear concerns and work with residents on potential solutions, as well as establish an ongoing dialogue through the establishment of bodies such as a Community Liaison Committee. This meeting happened on October 5, 2015 and I am hosting another on October 26, at 6:30pm. You are a part of making this work and you are needed to help form a successful relationship with the shelter.

 

Did City Council ask for this in our community?
No – an agency in the community bid. Staff confirmed CONC as a provider in late August 2015 and my office immediately booked a public meeting for October 5. Our second is October 26.
What is happening with concerns about the shelter?
Following the public meeting and additional conversations with neighbours, I moved a motion at a Committee on October 15, which placed conditions on the shelter and service provider. Some of these are highlighted below, but please attend the public meeting on October 26 to learn more or email my office councillor_layton@toronto.ca. More can be done at the November 3 meeting of City Council.

 

What if I have concerns about the shelter during its operation?
As a condition of the operating agreement the service provider will have to hire a community liaison worker whose job will be to attend community meetings and respond to the concerns of the community. CONC will also have to submit a Community Response Plan outlining their standards for replying to your concerns. You can always call 311 to speak to city staff directly.

 

What about Irene Parkette just behind 850-854 Bloor?
As a condition of this agreement there will be no access granted from the rear alleyway, apart from emergency evacuations, and no rear yard amenity space will be granted. Further, parks staff will be conducting a safety audit of the park and making recommendations for improvements.

 

How do we know local people are being helped? Are these just beds?
A condition of the operating agreement will be that CONC has to ensure the men using the shelter have access to the employment, housing, health, skills workshops, and other services provided at their facilities and that local outreach is done to ensure that a local population in need is served by this shelter.

 

What if CONC isn’t doing a good job?
Shelters staff will be required to attend the service provider’s board meetings, conduct regular site visits and review CONC’s financial statements. If they are found to be in breach of their contract with the City then appropriate steps will be taken to rectify the situation and the city will hold the agency accountable.

 

How can I be involved?
The City will be establishing a Community Liaison Committee that will include interested residents, relevant city staff, the service provider agency, and a representative from my office. If you would like to get involved in this committee, please email me at councillor_layton@toronto.ca.